Whilst we were staying in Baeza, we were only about 50 kms away from the Cazorla Natural Park (Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and La Villas), Spain’s largest protected area, and the second largest in Europe. We spent most of our second day exploring the park, a UNESCO protected biosphere reserve and most definitely, one of Spain’s best kept secrets.
The park covers almost a fifth of Jaen province and is an area of outstanding natural beauty with pine forests, river valleys, deep canyons, spectacular waterfalls, reservoirs and lakes. After stopping many times to enjoy the views, we even managed to find the source of the mighty Guadalquivir River (still a small, bubbling stream at this point), which eventually flows through the cities of Cordoba and Seville before finally making its way into the Atlantic Ocean at Cadiz.
By the time we got further into the Parque de Segura we were travelling alongside the reservoir Embalse del Tranco de Beas which is filled by the upper reaches of Rio Guadalquivir. We followed the reservoir for many kilometres until we reached the dam at Tranco, an important source of hydro-electric power for the area, and the perfect place to stop for a late lunch.
We couldn’t fail to be reminded of our trips to New Zealand – the scenery was spectacular.
After lunch we continued our scenic drive to Villa Nueva de Obispo, with it’s dramatic cliff edges. The park is reputed to be full of ibex, deer and wild boar though the only wild-life we saw were eagles soaring majestically overhead.
Cazorla National Park made a big impression on us with it’s natural beauty.